The word 'stealth' is not usually the first one that is used to describe me, but the last couple of weeks has caused me to be both furtive and agile. Of course, Cricket season on this side of the pond does not conjure up thoughts of lazy Sunday afternoons, drinking tea whilst sitting in deck chairs, and enjoying small triangular sandwiches. It would appear that the higher the water level rises, the further into town the jumping bugs like to come. The season, however, is not too long, just irritating, as after the first week of infestation, most of them just roll over, literally, and die. After five days of running and stomping, comes a period of tiptoeing and stamping. I did get used to sharing the kitchen sink as well as the bathroom, although not by choice. Minding my own business, in the smallest room in the house, (or office,) being glared at by an audience of insects, is less than delightful. The flat perspex that covers the ceiling lights, once a relay track for six legged beings, is now a graveyard for the same.
Fortunately, my home is situated too high to have the same problem as our office, which is downtown. However, as Mid-summer day comes and goes, the delights of nature makes themselves known. As mentioned, previously, the northern European creepy crawly, specifically the Anglo creepy crawly is far less bothersome than that of those of the United States, specifically the 'everything is bigger in Texas', variety. After my experience with the mosquito bite shortly before my meeting with immigration, I have kept a can of repellent in the house, as well as one in the office, and one in the car. Apparently, a solution of mouthwash and water, sprayed from an atomiser is also a very good deterent. At least if it does not repel the bugs completely, it may stop skin decay!
Life does continue, and during this period while the birds were feasting on the lower food chain delicacies, we were fortunate enough to be the dinner guests of Joe. As well as being a master roaster, Joe's previous employment includes being head chef for some of the best restaurants in town. His new abode has a large garden, with a built in, brick oven on the patio. Crickets, although not strictly forbidden, were kind enough to remain out of sight. As we arrived, I saturated myself in bug spray, and then walked through the long grass to the front door, and through the house into the long grass at the back. I was very careful where I walked, as long narrow beings crawl on their stomach through pampas. Much as I want to believe that they do not attack unless they feel threatened, I do not want to take any chances. Fortunately there was a table and chairs on the patio, and the blanket on the ground was just a joke! Joe's son, Ben, arrived and we sat down to eat. Ben was showing his dad his hand, which appeared to have a slight bump denoting an insect bite. Joe asked if he thought it could have been a spider. 'No, there was only one puncture mark', was the nonchalant reply. The words, spider and bite said in the same sentence did not seem to cause anyone concern except for me.
The evening wore on and my right leg started to irritate. I was rather shocked when bumps appeared. I was most meticulous with my spraying. Suddenly, I felt something on my foot, and elevated sharply, to find a small thin leaflike piece of foliage on just below my toes. Laughing at my own stupidity, I flicked it to the ground, and attempted to ignore the irritation running around my ankles.
The next morning, my leg was full of red marks, indicative of an insect having feasted upon my flesh, and I could not understand why the spray had been so effective on one leg, and insufficient on the other. We went to Joe, as usual, for coffee at his warehouse, and my leg was under review, (most amusing as I consider my legs are probably the least attractive of my features!) and the large bruise that was just above my ankle was discussed in hushed tones. It was decided that the atomiser was perhaps out of date. Scientifically speaking, which is not normally my forte, there has to be a time when something turns bad. One minute it is 'in', the next 'out'. (Now that is how I remember the Cricket Season!)
My leg was irritating more and more, and the urge to scratch became urgent. Calomine was not effective, unless my intention was to walk around with a pink leg, and anti histamine did not, for once, make me drowsy, let alone stop the irritation. Sitting with my leg on a pack of ice was the only relief I experienced, which was not possible at work. Jumping on dead crickets seemed only to exacerbate the situation, as movement increased the circulation, which in turn caused the itching to increase. I tried everything from toothpaste, (apparently it is an emergency antidote when camping) to cortisone cream. Bicarbonate of soda made into paste was somewhat successful, but once it dried, it flaked off and caused white powder to be scattered wherever I walked.
As the bumps receded, and the bruising diminished, scratch marks became visible, and tiny puncture holes appeared. Two tiny puncture holes. 'Looks like a spider bite to me', was followed by an equally confident, 'I thought that when I first saw them, especially with the bruising', which in turn was followed by a slight scream, and a thousand questions. Being bitten by an arachnid was quite horrifying to me, but not to anyone else. 'Excuse me, but I have been bitten by a spider. Do I need to do anything?', was met with shrugs. It looked like the inflammation was decreasing, and the swelling by the wounds had gone down, so everything was alright. 'But I was bitten by a spider!' Still nothing. Apparently, if it had been a black widow, or recluse, I would have been in a lot more pain, and probably had a fever, and would have felt unwell, but all I had was some mild irritation. I challenged them to define mild! 'You dont understand. English woman do not get bitten by spiders, in England'. I am not sure if the comment that I was no longer in England was meant to be comforting, but it failed, miserably.
I cannot imagine ever getting used to the fact that spiders, snakes and scorpions are living happily in my breathing space. I cannot ever imagine being able to say 'spider' and 'bite' in the same sentence, and not be horrified. Suddenly, Cricket season does not seem so bad. Scoring a century and shouting 'Howzat!' is alien to my surroundings, but it makes me feel better, and I scored several centuries! Being told that the spider that bit me was not poisonous, does not! However, I have made my bed, etc etc., so I shall suffer in silence.
The thought of more dead Jiminies lining my office carpet is not one that I relish, but dead crickets cant bite. Perhaps I will catch a glimpse of a wooden boy, or at least a blue fairy! I shall also remain vigilant and continue to repel what I can with any spray I can get. Thankfully, as I said, the season does not last as long as that in England, and I can look forward to the search for some different, Texan 'critters'. What I will only do for ..... another story.